Nanny Knows Best

Although Mary Poppins may have saved the day with "a spoon full of sugar", Nanny V employs a more pragmatic approach. No magic, just simple love, attention and consistency. And a healthy dose of humour.

LORD HELP THE MISTER WHO GETS BETWEEN ME AND MY SISTER

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on Thursday, 09 October 2014
Siblings are our first friends, our enemies and rivals. Playmates in childhood, they shape our lives, share memories, and can be our best friends in adulthood.

The Vietnamese proverb tells us brothers and sisters are as close as hands and feet. In India, the sibling relationship is so cherished that a festival is held in observance called Rakhi. At this celebration, the sister presents the brother with a woven bracelet to show their lasting bond even when they have raised their own families.

And yet sibling rivalry and squabbles are part of everyday life as children grow. Learning to share or even compete for adult attention (parents, nannies, grandparents, etc) are two of the primary reasons a disagreement begins.

It’s mine”, “”But I was playing with it first”, “You like him/her better than me”, and one I hear all too often from young Mr L is, “It’s not fair”. Call me harsh or just plain realistic, but my response is always, “Life’s tough. Get used to it”.

And mostly I allow children to resolve their own issues with their siblings unless there is the threat of physical violence. What better opportunity to learn conflict resolution.

You also must have house rules for acceptable behaviour, encourage individual play time, spend time independently with each child, and regularly enjoy fun as a family. The latter may require precision organisation but I cannot emphasise enough the importance of making time for both.

Two more things – be careful about comparing, equally in thought and action, and hugs and affection can soothe an upset soul and show your child love, love love.

Irving Berlin, one of eight children, knew much about sibling relationships and used his keen sense to pen the lyrics for “Sisters”.

“Lord help the mister who gets between me and my sister and
Lord help the sister who gets between me and my man”.
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Gadgets for mums and nannies

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on Thursday, 02 October 2014
As a nanny I really only need one wish from my genie in a bottle or maybe I should wish to the heavens, “Starlight star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have my wish I wish tonight.”

Mary Poppins, Nanny McPhee or even Alice from The Brady Bunch to move in and take over.

I would welcome a little magic to deal with a snarly teen, whilst cooking dinner, planning the weekend ahead, and sewing name tags on new school uniforms, or simply have a happy ending like a 30 minute sitcom. The reality is I need to be organised and professional and breathe through the stressful times.

A magazine I flipped through in the paediatrician’s last week suggested gadgets might help. It didn’t mention a robot version of me so these will have to suffice.

I can see the merits of a slow cooker to solve the occasional dinner dilemma when the day is just too jam-packed, or a robot vacuum cleaner to quietly deal with the meal scraps that didn’t quite make it into small mouths.

It also recommended a car DVD player for longer road journeys, an iPad or Kindle for both adults and kids when waiting is tedious.

The most practical two were a portable battery charger and a wireless key finder. I’d suggest these are necessary for mummy and nanny sanity.

However, the portable mini hair straightener is as useless to me as a portable nail polishing art machine.

Such frivolity would only cause me more stress, draw attention to the lack of cosmetics in my handbag and make me fret to look into a mirror. No space even for a lipstick unless I toss out the Matchbox cars, Lego figures, just-in-case snacks and drinks, and my secret stash of liquorice allsorts when a deep breath and mediation fail dismally.

The gadgets may help here and there but there is no substitute for the old fashioned talking to your mini me’s, playing games, going for a walk, reading a book, and a regular salon treat for you.

Terrible tweens

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on Thursday, 25 September 2014
The “terrible twos” feel like a walk in the park when the sweet, happy moppet you love has transformed back into the tantrum-throwing vixen.

Tween girls, and boys for that matter, can be moody, overdramatic, self-centred, focused almost solely on friends, close-mouthed, surly, back-talking and condescending to parents, nannies, teachers, siblings and really, EVERYONE.  They can, of course, also be mature, affectionate and delightful, but at their worst they’re a cross between the most challenging aspects of toddlers and teens.

You can blame the hormones but heed a few behavioural adjustments, yours and theirs, even though it may seem unfair that you have to do most of the work in your relationship. Your tweens may look like young men and women, but they’ve got a lot of growing up to do emotionally. It’s your job and privilege to help them.

- Your relationship will take priority over discipline as you will not get respect if your tween doesn’t feel connected to you.

- Schedule regular “dates” for discussion or simply going to a movie or a meal. Sometimes NOT talking helps too.

- Find appropriate ways to give independence so they won’t have to rebel.

- Adolescence is a transition phase so empathise and appreciate the anxieties important to your tween.

- Sleep and rest are still important even if more challenging. Maintain house rules for sleep times and limited computer/phone use (role modelling is effective and necessary).

- Fresh air, any physical activity, helps clear tense situations, distract a tween or from intense emotions (again, join in, lead the way, or cheer on at the sidelines).

- “You don’t understand” is what a tween feels and screams out when confused or hurt. Don’t take all their outbursts to heart and stay calm through the tantrums.

- Always insist on civility so muster your own and don’t overreact in the middle of hysterics.

- Keep up the cuddles and the kisses and the closeness even if they may start to squirm. You won’t get this opportunity back to show them your love even if/when they question it.

And just when you think you may have mastered the tween phase, it’s a mere couple of years preparing you for the next seven of teens. BREATHE, SMILE, and breathe some more.

Smelly breath and prickly whiskers

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on Thursday, 18 September 2014
My nanna had whiskers and grandpop halitosis (or was it the other way around that my four-year-old self recollects?) and yet we all loved our cuddles. Aunty A had far too many rolls of blubber I felt suffocated by her hugs. Uncle T smoked smelly pipes and his moustache was itchy when he kissed me on the cheek.

Everyone has memories as a child of being made to give a hello and goodbye kiss or a hug to adults who weren’t always particularly palatable.

And now the politically-correct crowd advocate that kiddies should wave or high five instead, as apparently physical contact could be blurring the boundaries of appropriate behaviour.

“Encouraging children to be in control by blowing a kiss as an alternative could help children learn that their bodies are their own to avoid future sexual exploitation”, says Lucy Emmerson, coordinator of the UK’s Sex Education Forum.

Yes we must protect our children and educate them about sexual advances and inappropriate behaviour but do we then sterilise them to the degree they will miss out on the warmth and love of human touch? The repercussions for the latter are too great to dismiss so easily with a handshake.

So talk to your children. Find out what they don’t like about a person and listen to their opinions and concerns. If it’s not too awkward to have a chat with the adult in question, then do it too.

Associate Professor Marylou Rasmussen, a Monash University sex education researcher in Australia, highlights the need to have conversations with primary school children about what is appropriate when it comes to physical contact with adults.

“It’s not okay to kiss a teacher, but if it’s a cousin of aunty and it’s not sexual then I don’t see why there is any concern at all.”

From my extensive experience previously as a child and with over twenty years of working with them, I know that a hug and a kiss help heal a scraped knee, get you a sweetie from granny, and make the world a safe and happier place. OK, a little bribery might sometimes be necessary but isn’t negotiation already an aspect of relationships?

1st, 2nd, 3rd

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on Thursday, 11 September 2014
"A new study reveals…” These words never fail to grab my attention to discover what learned minds are talking about.

I am both the first-born and a woman so according to the University of Essex, am “…more likely to succeed.”  My alumni includes Angela Merkel, Oprah Winfrey, Hilary Clinton and Beyonce.

We are more likely to be more ambitious and successful than our younger siblings who just happen to be Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Nelson Mandela, JFK, and Michael Jackson (technically the latter two were somewhere in the middle). Yes all men and yet, all successful, but so were/are Jane Austen, Barbara Walters, Jenifer Lopez and Madonna.

What is it about birth order scientists find fascinating enough to study and make bold statements about?

I guess the statistics demonstrate specific characteristics to warrant stereotypes like “…middle children tend to have high degrees of patience, perhaps because they spend so much of their time in childhood waiting their turn”, or “the youngest is often indulged, even spoilt,” says educational consultant, Katrin Schumann.

Is it money in the bank, number of friends on Facebook, or scoring an invite to Kensington Palace that’s the measure of success? Does a teacher’s salary score more points on the achievement scale than being the mum of four delightful children? My two younger sisters, the teacher and the mum (both somewhere in the middle birth order) could both argue their case and have you believe each is ambitious and successful.

What these studies do show is that parental attention makes children feel safer and loved. Spending time with your offspring may not be a guarantee for their success in life but it will hopefully bring joy and smiles and wonderful memories for all…and maybe save you money on therapists if you are so inclined.

I think tomorrow I will start my own study on how scientists come up with studies they feel worthy of their superior education and our valuable time to read them.


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